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Chicago City Council Committee Approves Midway Deal

Leonard Gilroy
October 6, 2008, 12:36pm

Mayor Daley's plan to lease Midway Airport to an investor-operator team for $2.5 billion has just passed out of committee and is now teed up for full Council approval tomorrow. From the Chicago Sun-Times:
Mayor Daley's $2.5 billion plan to privatize Midway Airport was cleared for take-off by a City Council committee today as City Hall races to complete the historic transaction before the change of administrations in Washington. The City Council's Finance Committee signed off on the deal, despite concerns about parking and concession prices, the city's decision to assume the $10 million-a-year cost of police and fire protection and questions about how the $1 billion in profits would be spent.
There was this puzzling bit of silliness:
At one point, Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) threatened to hold up the deal to protest the absence of minority investors. "Chicago is not an all-white city. In a city as racially and culturally diverse as Chicago, before we go selling off the city's assets, we want to know that the purchasers are sensitive to that diversity. And we are not seeing that," Hairston said. But, in the end, the deal went through and appears to be headed for full Council approval on Wednesday.
So let me get this straight—the bidders are offering Chicago a $2.5 billion check, and that's not good enough for the "diversity" crowd? The fact that the city will have more money to shore up its finances and pension obligations and improve infrastructure for Chicago citizens of all shapes, sizes, and colors doesn't matter? Instead, they talk about focusing on "minority investors" and want to make sure "purchasers are sensitive to that diversity". What???!!! Do these people have to frame everything in terms of race? Multi-billion dollar deals are color blind, and if minority investors want to invest in the companies that are doing this, they certainly can. But this whole issue shows an appalling lack of understanding with the way the real world works. The bidders are tapping into the global capital markets to structure the best deal possible. These markets don't care what color you are, just how they can get the best financing structure for the best rates. It's inappropriate to bring diversity and race into a discussion like this. Chicago and it's diversity of citizens have all benefited well from the Skyway lease, the parking garages lease, etc., and the "diversity" and racial mix of investors was not an issue in those discussions. In fact, it's silly political opportunism like this that, if actually put into practice, would have more potential to tank a deal or complicate the financing so completely that it's unworkable. Can we please get real here? Luckily, it sounds like the rest of the committee didn't take the bait.

Leonard Gilroy is Director of Government Reform


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